2020 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Derrick Brown

October 25, 2019 1:00 AM EST

Derrick Brown Scouting Report picture

School: Auburn

Height: 6'5"

Weight: 318

Eligibility: SR

Uniform: #5

Position: DL

Evaluated by: Austin Smith
October 25, 2019

Prospect Overview

Many were surprised to see Brown return as a senior, considering he could have been a first-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Auburn defensive tackle was a dominant force up the middle as a junior and appeared to be one of the best defensive tackles in the country with his combination of size and power. Last season, Brown put up 48 tackles and 4.5 sacks, which were on par with the 57 tackles and three sacks he'd collected as a true sophomore. Thus far, he is one pace to have similar numbers as a senior and has already batted down more passes at the line of scrimmage and recovered more fumbles than he has in a single season. However, numbers don't tell the full story to Brown's dominance.

Derrick Brown Scouting Report image 1

The tape shows a player who regularly disrupts plays in the backfield, forcing the ball to others on the defense as well. While those plays don't show up on a stat sheet, they certainly catch the attention of NFL evaluators. Because of that, many believe Brown is one of the best defensive players in the country, despite playing a less glamorous position. Brown was named second-team All-SEC as a junior and is likely to hear his name in the conversation for all-conference honors again as a senior.


There is no denying Brown's strength as a player. His initial punch often jars linemen off balance, and when he wants a blocker's hands off him, his violent hands do the job. Combine that with a player that has a keen understanding of leverage, and he can be overwhelming for opponents. He often fires off the snap with a low center of gravity, and his lower body pairs with his strong punch to drive players into the backfield, as well as exploit creases. I\ve also yet to see a center that can handle him when he lines up directly across. Even double teams struggle to get any push on Brown. As the traditional running game is becoming less prominent in some NFL offenses, a guy like this would be one of the best run-stuffers in the league early in his career. It's also a testament to his core and lower-body strength that he very rarely ends up on the ground.

Derrick Brown Scouting Report image 2

I was also surprised at Brown's initial quickness and tenacity for a player his size. At nearly 320 pounds, he fires off the snap quickly, and that initial explosion turns into power when he engages with the blocker. Another trait that NFL Scouts will love is his discipline and effort on outside runs. A lot of bigger players become non-factors on runs to the perimeter, but Brown does an excellent job of keeping his shoulders square as he works his way down the line of scrimmage. At that point, he has to depend on his teammates to force the ball back to him, like he usually does for them. If the running back decides to try and cut against the grain, Brown puts himself in a position to be involved in the play.

The effort shows up fairly regularly as well. This is not a player that settles despite his size. Brown continues to fight, even when being double-teamed. The feet doo't stop, and his violent hands go to work to get himself free. He also has the awareness to get his hands up when he knows he is not going to get to the quarterback. Overall, Brown has a desperation to be involved in the play, and that shows up on tape. He possesses excellent awareness on the field. Brown spots screens and will give a shot to running backs attempting to slip through the middle as a check-down option. His focus also amps up in big moments, and the way he performed late in the game against Texas A&M in 2018 was a perfect example of how dominant he can be.

Areas for Improvement

When it comes to Brown, what you see is what you get. He can occasionally play to high on obvious passing downs, but I think that has a little more to do with his lack of ability as a pass rusher. Brown can use a bullrush to get pressure on the quarterback, but other than that, he really isn't an overly-gifted pass rusher. He doesn't change direction exceptionally well, and while he has an explosive first step, he won't accelerate to the point where he blows by a blocker to get to the quarterback.

Derrick Brown Scouting Report image 3

His best strategy when he is asked to get after the passer is to collapse the pocket. When he does pop straight up against the pass, I am thinking it's because he is looking to get his hands up on a quick throw, but even so, he can't abandon his power. The only other issue I see is he can sometimes get locked into defeating the blocker across from him and lose the location the ball.

Draft Stock

Defensive tackles like Brown have become somewhat devalued in the draft because the NFL is becoming more of a passing league, but we still see top-end run-stuffers go in the first round. I believe Brown has a chance to be one of the top defenders in the 2020 NFL Draft, and while he may not be one of the first defenders drafted, I'd be shocked if he slipped out of the first 20 picks. Every team is looking for a nose, whether it's in an odd or even-man front, and because of that, his value will eventually be too good to pass up on. It's also important to point out that he may be one of the best leaders in the 2020 class. He's been on the SEC Student-Athlete Leadership Council since he arrived at Auburn, and was also a finalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award as a junior. His teammates rave about him as not only a leader but also a scholar, and coaches are going to want a player like this on their team.

Player Comparison

When I look at the way he can single-handedly take over a game, I am reminded of Marcell Dareus and how he could dominate with his power. I don't think Brown has the same length as Dareus, but the power is certainly there. However, when I look at Danny Shelton and the kind of player he has been in the NFL, I think that is what Brown can be. His ability to shut down the inside of the field, while also having a quick first step that allows him to shoot gaps is a very similar combination for skills to what Brown offers coming out of Auburn. They've got Brown listed at six feet, five inches, and while I am not sure that is accurate, both these guys are taller interior players like Brown. Both of those players were also top-10 talents in their draft classes on my board, and I believe Brown fits that bill as well.

Games Evaluated

vs. Washington (9-1-18)
vs. LSU (9-15-18)
vs. Tennessee (10-13-18)
vs. Texas A&M (11-3-18)
vs. Georgia (11-10-18)
vs. Alabama (11-24-18)
vs. Oregon (8-31-19)

  • It didn't take long to realize this guy is powerful. Not only is he strong, but he fires off low. Because he plays with such good pad level, he often controls one-on-one blocks. Even double teams are difficult to execute on him. He has a low center of gravity, he keeps his shoulders square and explodes upfield without opening up his chest to the blocker.
  • His explosion is so impressive. I would love to watch him on the blocking sled in practice. Defensive linemen often warm up with a drill where they start on their knees and fire their hands upward at the sled dummy and roll their hips forward. It simulates that initial punch off the snap. I'll bet he rocks that sled four or five yards backward.
  • I am surprised to see how active he plays for a guy his size. He is constantly fighting to get loose, and on runs to the perimeter, he works his way down the line of scrimmage with pace in order to stay involved in the play. Against LSU, he was everywhere. He made three plays on the perimeter by fighting his way down the line. He was clogging up the middle, chasing the quarterback and tipping passes. This guy weighs near 320 pounds. Being involved that much is impressive.
  • On pass plays, he keeps his eyes out for a running back, trying to slip by him. He spots screens and always gives the running back a shove to make him less of an option in the check-down game.
  • There is a bad habit I am noticing in obvious passing situations, and that is him popping straight up out of his stance. His game is about power and explosion. He can't abandon that because walking a lineman back into the quarterback's lap can help someone else get home. I know rushing the passer will never be his strong suit, but if he is going to have success, it's going to be by embracing what he does best.
  • His hands are violent. When he wants an offensive lineman's hands off him, they come off. He's got a powerful punch, and when he clubs people, they move.
  • His 40-yard dash won't impress, but I'll bet he turns some heads with his 10-yard split.
  • I wonder if there is a defender in the country that sees more double teams than Brown. Auburn likes to mix their fronts, and he lines up all over the line, and consistently seems to find himself facing multiple blockers.
  • Through the first two tapes, I noticed that Brown plays with very good balance and very rarely ends up on the ground without a ball carrier in his arms. However, against Tennessee, that wasn't the case. The best explanation I can come up with is that the Volunteers continuously ran the ball to the perimeter, and he was just pressing to be involved.
  • If you are a center that doesn't handle power well, you are not going to succeed when he lines up over you. As a matter of fact, if I am an offensive coordinator, I am checking out of running the ball up the middle if he is at the nose. He just wrecks the play design by driving the center backward. I'd run it to the perimeter every time so his power won't disrupt the entire play.
  • You want your best players to show up in the big moments, and he did late in a close game against Texas A&M in 2018. Stuffed a run that resulted in a loss of yards. Drove the center back into the quarterback to cause a fumble on a pass play. Rushed the quarterback into throwing a screen pass before it had developed. All of these helped Auburn get the ball back and take the lead. After that, he knocked down a pass to create third and long and later forced a hold with 12 seconds left to put the Aggies out of Hail-Mary range.
  • With players like this, sometimes all you need to know is how an opponent schemes to deal with them. Against Georgia in 2018, on their opening drive, they ran 10 plays before settling for a field goal. The double-teamed Brown six of those 10 plays. On the four they didn't double team him, he got penetration in the backfield and was somewhat held on the first play. He had a hurry on the second. He split a tackle for loss with a teammate on the third. Georgia obviously had respect for him, and probably wished they double-teamed him even more.
  • Thus far, in 2019, he looks a bit lighter on his feet, but he is never going to be known for his athleticism. It's his strength and initial burst that will be his calling card at the next level.
  • I'd strongly recommend looking up his reason for returning as a senior. Can't say enough about the character and maturity of this kid.

    Scouting Video Courtesy of Harris Highlights

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